I’ve been a pastor since 1985 and I have already lost track of how many weddings I have officiated. I thought I was already retired but it seems I do still get requests once in a while.
Just last month, December 16, 2016 I was asked to solemnize the marriage of a young couple and I could not refuse them. The girl happens to be my wife’s niece and I’ve known her since she was a baby. My wife told me her niece wanted me to officiate in her wedding because she wanted to also have a long-lasting marriage just like me and my wife who have been married for some 37 years now. I thought that was an interesting reason to choose me but it touched my heart since we love this girl like a daughter. May they “live happily ever after” which is what all of us want to have in marriage.
This wedding was unique to me because this was the first time that I solemnized a marriage of two young lovers who have lots of tattoos on their bodies. This was my second time to solemnize a marriage right beside the beach but this was unique because this was the first time I got wet in the rain. As the rain began to pour I hurriedly said, “You may now kiss the bride!” Despite the rain which stopped after a while, it was a happy event all the way up till evening.
On another occasion just this past weekend in Barangay Bahile, Puerto Princesa in Palawan, there was also a wedding of a young couple. I don’t know why but I am always fascinated with weddings done in the province or in some remote barangay. I guess maybe because I grew up in the province and it amuses me when I see weddings in the province. It was also a happy occasion and the reception was in a nipa hut building. I enjoyed that one.
I was not the officiating minister for this wedding. But what made this an interesting experience for me was because the officiating minister asked me to co-officiate in the wedding ceremony with him. And so I did and it was fun. I have another unique wedding experience of becoming a wedding photographer but that’s another story in another blog.
After the morning wedding at Barangay Bahile, everyone traveled to the groom’s home at Barangay Salvacion where the reception (lunch!) was held. Everyone enjoyed lunch under the nipa hut roofing and the twirled yellow and green coconut leaves reminded me that it was a celebration out in the province. Really nice!
Weddings are wonderful. Marriage is something divinely instituted by God and not just some man-made ritual. And its really wonderful to see young couples promise to love each other for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until death do them part. Marriage is a blessing from God so we can experience life and love here and now and not just in the life hereafter.
Last Friday, I arrived in Barangay Bahile, Puerto Princesa for a pastoral visit and it so happened that one of the pioneers in the area died due to sickness. She was already about 85 years old. Since she was the mother of one of our church members, I and our local church pastor in the area went to visit the bereaved family in their nipa hut home in the evening.
I’ve been to so many funerals in my lifetime and I have conducted funeral services numerous times and during these times, I have seen people who seem lost and groping for answers in the midst of their sorrow and grief over the death of a loved one. And it is during these times that it’s always good to be reminded that there is hope after death.
At the wake, I shared to them the wonderful good news that Jesus has given to us. I related to them the story of Lazarus who was a very close friend of Jesus who died (John 11). Although Jesus was only about 2 kilometers away (more or less), he intentionally delayed visiting Lazarus for some four days and it bothered Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus. Martha said, “Lord if only you had arrived earlier, Lazarus would still be alive.”
It truly grieves us when someone close to us dies. We want to search for meaning in life and why there is death. We want to understand what’s going on. To make a long story short, Jesus brought back to life his dear friend Lazarus. And there is a reason and a lesson why Jesus delayed his coming to visit Lazarus.
Jesus wants all of us to learn that even though we die, there is hope, we have hope and we should hope in Jesus. We can and should rest in Jesus. No worries. Everything is under his control even though we may not fully understand what’s going on in our life — or death.
“Jesus said to her (Martha), ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'” (John 11:25-26 )
Did you notice what Jesus said? He IS the Resurrection and the Life Himself! Let’s put our trust in him. Believe in him and believe him. No need to worry. We can rest in Jesus. Death has been defeated. We have victory in Jesus. We may die a temporal death but we will never die but live forever in Jesus. Believe it and enjoy life and love in him now and forever more.